Viewpoint: Millennial bosses are grappling with their Gen Z employees' new ideals

Although generational stereotypes are often exaggerated, some divides do exist between different generations. These divides are being felt in the workplace, with some millennial managers reporting feeling confused and surprised by their Gen Z juniors, Emma Goldberg wrote for The New York Times on Oct. 28.

Millennials are defined as being born between the 1980s and 1996. They are typically thought of as a generation defined by the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis and 9/11. Some argue that by entering the workforce in turbulent times, the generation are happy to have jobs at all and place a high premium on working late hours and hustling.

Generation Z, on the other hand, make up the group of workers born between 1997 and 2012. Those from Gen Z who are eligible to work have been shaped by the disruptive forces of the pandemic, which upended many norms around work. Research suggests they are the most likely generation to report issues with their mental health, and as such, they ask for changes to the way traditional work is done. 

Some millennial managers have seen how the generational divide between them and their juniors makes itself apparent at work. Some Gen Z employees surprised managers by asking for time off for mental health reasons and for menstruation pains. One told Ms. Goldberg that a Gen Z staff member asked during their interview if they could sign off after completing their to-do list. Another manager said she noticed that younger employees were more flexible in extending the boundary of what is appropriate at work, being more vulnerable with their emotions. Gen Zers are also pushing their companies to be more vocal in their response to social inequities.

"These younger generations are cracking the code and they're like, 'Hey guys, turns out we don't have to do it like these old people tell us we have to do it,'" Colin Guinn, co-founder of Hangar Technology, told the Times. "'We can actually do whatever we want and be just as successful.' And us old people are like, 'What is going on?'"

However, it is unknown how widespread this phenomenon is. Many Gen Z employees working low-paid jobs in more rigid, traditional or corporate environments may not have the ability to change company culture in the same way as those in startups do.

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